KC district unprepared for high attendance

Monday, August 5, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The idea was to reward students' summer school attendance in the Kansas City School District with gift certificates.

But when students lined up to receive the awards, the district wasn't prepared for such good attendance.

The end result: Parents and children went home hot and angry, some of them empty-handed, and district officials apologized for what one called "a lack of planning."

About 6,000 of the district's 9,500 summer school students made it through the season missing fewer than three days of classes. Saturday, they were supposed to be awarded with gift certificates for their efforts.

But long after the doors at the Manual Career Technical Center opened Saturday morning, hundreds of students and their parents were left without their reward.

At 9 a.m., when the doors were set to open, it was already 80 degrees, and the temperature quickly climbed into the 90s.

"We weren't prepared to handle the amount of parents who showed up," said district spokesman Edwin Birch. "But the district isn't making any excuses. It was a lack of planning, and we apologize for the inconvenience."

Birch said the students are still guaranteed their gift certificates -- $100 for a clean attendance record, $75 for missing one day, $50 for two. More than 3,000 were estimated to qualify for the perfect attendance award.

Birch said he could not say how many gift certificates were actually distributed Saturday, though he noted that "some people did go home happy."

Parents at the event were told to go to their child's specific summer school on Friday to get the certificates. Birch said that plan was still the most likely, but district officials would consider ways to get the certificates out sooner.

This year was the first time the district offered gift certificates as an incentive.

Enrollment is up about 15 percent, and the district receives about $1,300 in state aid for each student who made it to every day of class.

The district expects to bring in about $5.4 million in state aid as a result and spend about $200,000 on gift certificates.

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